One of the most significant ways to drive traffic to your website is through link building. Search engines have pretty complex algorithms that determine how high up you rank on the results page. If you aren't on the first page, you might as well not be listed.
Just like a real person, a search engine takes links and references with a grain of salt. A large, well-established, reputable site with relevant links is going to be taken much more seriously than a "link farm" that simply posts links to anything. The search engine weighs links using information such as how closely related the site topics are.
For example, if your blog about dog grooming is linked from a veterinarian's website, it would have more value than a link on a shoe store's. In the same vein, links that are in the body of text are more heavily weighted than those in comments sections or forum signatures.
So how do you go about building links that are both valuable and visible? There are essentially three types of links. When you take a look at them it is pretty clear which ones you want.
- Natural Links - A natural link is exactly what it sounds like. When someone likes your blog or website and posts a link to it on another web page, it creates a link that is both visible and valuable. Not only does it increase your search engine results, but it reaches the more people who might be interested in visiting your site.
- Outreach or Manual Links - These kind of links are usually created by listing your website in a directory or emailing bloggers to ask about trading links. Article databases that accept any submission are prime places for these as well.
- Artificial or Self-Created Links - Signing guest books, blog comments and forum posts, and social networking profiles are low value links, but easy and cheap to create in huge numbers. They can have a small effect on search engine rankings but are really the lowest form of link building.
So How Do You Get Good Links?
Now that you know what a good link looks like, how do you get more of them? You can't really force natural, high value links, but there are a few things that you can do to encourage them.
- Get people to link to you. Badges can be a powerful thing. Small graphic icons of your logo or slogan, they simply sit on the web pages or blogs of your supporters. It only takes your customers a moment to add a badge and it serves as an attention getting link and a tiny bit of advertising.
- Create a great website and blog. If you have lots of interesting, informative content, then people will post links without you having to ask for them. Regular updates and quality content are the key here.
- Get in the news. Give something away for free or do something just a little controversial.
Link building can bring you to the attention of countless potential readers or customers. It can also cost you an arm and a leg while bringing no real benefit. It's important to seek out valuable links and avoid wasting your time and money on ones that won't pay off. Good content and honest appeals to your customers and supporters can create the beginnings of a powerful internet presence.